The PEP-NET Innovative Training Network, coordinated by Leonie Ringrose, unites 16 European laboratories and companies to train 14 PhD students in theoretical and experimental approaches to epigenetics.

Epigenetics meets mathematics

Epigenetics research aims to understand how a single genomic DNA sequence can generate and maintain the extraordinary diversity of cell identities and functions that comprise the adult organism. Modifications of DNA and chromatin and the binding of other molecules provide a gene-regulatory layer that modulates gene activity states, so that one genome gives rise to several “epigenomes”.

Epigenetic mechanisms of gene regulation are profoundly implicated in human health and disease. However, we are still far from understanding epigenetic processes. Research on epigenetic mechanisms has typically been based on experiments and not on theory. Although this has delivered large amounts of information, information alone is not sufficient. Further progress urgently needs a paradigm shift in the way in which we study epigenetics, namely: epigenetics needs mathematics.

What are the barriers to understanding epigenetic mechanisms and how can we break them?

One of the greatest challenges to uniting biology and mathematics has been the barrier between disciplines. Undergraduate, Masters and Doctoral education in the field has traditionally been mono-disciplinary. The PEP-NET Innovative Training Network will overcome barriers by uniting 16 outstanding European academic laboratories and companies who have pioneered the successful combination of theoretical and experimental epigenetics.